Wildlife Gardening - Planting for Bugs

(c) Paul Hetherington

Choose species that will make your garden a pollinator pit-stop

If you want to go a step further than just leaving parts of your garden alone, you could plant with insects in mind.

The good news is that sometimes more bee-friendly spaces take less work, and a flowerbed that’s abuzz with bees and fluttering with butterflies is much more fun than pristine show flowers.

Here are some choices you can make that will help our pollinating pals:

–          Make a mini-meadow. That might sound complicated, but actually it’s probably the simplest thing you can do with a flowerbed. It doesn’t take much more than scattering the right British wildflower seeds over bare earth and letting nature run its course. Find out more about making your own mini-meadow.

–          Make your lawn a bee-lawn. These are lawns that include plants such as white or alsike clover which are hardy enough to survive mowing but perfect for pollinators. Simply over-seed your lawn with them and reduce your mowing to every few weeks, raising the blades to about three inches. You may even see an increase in drought resistance!

–          Choose the right flowers for pollinators. If you want to get more hands-on, specifically select flowers that bees, butterflies and hoverflies love. There are a few things to consider:

o   Choose native species. Flowers that grow here naturally are better for our pollinators than imported species. Here’s our guide to plants that are brilliant for bees.

o   Provide a mix of flower types. Variety is king, and by varying your native flower types you can accommodate different bugs. Open, daisy-type flowers and umbels are great for hoverflies and many solitary bees, while some other bees, butterflies and moths prefer tubular flowers. Also plant night-scented flowers for moths, such as Jasmine and Honeysuckle.

o   Plant flowers that bloom at different times of year. That way pollinators have access to food throughout the seasons. You can even add winter flowers such as Hellebore, Erica, Mahonia and snowdrops to feed pollinators that wake up on sunny winter days.

o   Plant an herb garden. Flowering herbs such as Marjoram, Rosemary and Fennel provide a double benefit: lots of nectar for pollinators and fresh seasoning for you!

o   Avoid flashy annual bedding plants with little pollen or nectar. Similarly, double-petalled varieties are inaccessible to insects.

–          Include evergreen shrubs and climbers in your garden. They work brilliantly as leafy winter lairs for bugs.

Make your veg garden or allotment bug friendly. Fruit and veg plots can be great for wildlife, and pollinators will give back by visiting your food plants. You don’t have to worry about being overrun by unwanted species – there are natural ways to control pests . Read our bee-friendly veg guide for more information.

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